Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Meanwhile the Will of Zeus was Being Accomplished

No religion won the European Wars of Religion. Some countries remained loyal to the Pope while others had become Lutheran or Calvinist. But there was one universal winner, the State. The kings and the politicians figured out how to aggrandize themselves either by promoting reform or adhering to tradition—Henry VIII, famously, first became more powerful by supporting the Pope and then became yet more powerful by breaking with him. Heads I win. Tails you lose. The great and passionate theological debates, for all their bitterness and homicidal pedantry, proved comically irrelevant in the long run as History, the true god of men, made dupes of the believers.

I think something similar is going on right now in the United States, with the additional irony that the party most vocal in promoting local rights and denouncing big government is busy increasing the power of the federal government. The Neoconservative and Nixonian segments of the Republican party preach free market ideology or religious revival but only as long as they promote a unitary, authoritarian American empire. If Yahweh or Adam Smith proves an obstacle to the growth of power, they will be dispensed with in short order.

No comments: